Testy Tuesdays #5

Let’s be honest, folks, today is Thursday, but whatever.

On Tuesday, I had just woken up and was probably about to do something productive with my last day off of my usual 3-day “weekend”, when I heard someone calling my name through my front door. At first I thought it was my neighbor, but then I realized it was my best friend, Madlen.

Madlen can be persistent when she wants to talk to me, and I’d had my phone off since I clocked out on Saturday, so I wasn’t that surprised that she didn’t take an off phone for an answer, and showed up at my door. It did surprise me when she immediately burst into tears when she saw me. The fact that she was already on the phone when she knocked on my door, is also pure Madlen.

Madlen is the most ADD conversationalist I’ve ever met. She’ll ask me an existential question and as I’m answering, she’ll text someone or answer a call. She has no problem interrupting a conversation she’s having with me to talk on the phone with someone else for 10 minutes, with me just sitting next to her, in her car, or at her house. She’ll call me, talk to me for 10 seconds, and then say, “I’m pulling into my parking garage. I’ll call you back in 5 minutes.” I’ve known her for 9 years, and she’s been like this from day one.

So on Tuesday, I let her in, and she had to use the bathroom, so she goes in and starts talking, and I was like, “I can’t hear you” and she said, “I wasn’t talking to you, I’m on the phone.” Oh, Madlen. Anyway, she was in crisis, so I spent all day helping her, spent the night at her place, and came home in time to shower and get ready for work on Wednesday.

It’s amazing how little time you have for your own sadness when you’re ensconced in someone else’s. It makes sense why people with chaotic childhoods tend to surround themselves with drama queens. It re-creates that chaos in adult life. I am not one of those people. I hate getting caught up in other peoples’ problems. I feel like I am struggling hard enough with my own, I can’t take on anyone else’s.

I tend to avoid people who are addicted to chaos, but I’ve known Madlen since before I had any kind of boundaries or any opinion about what I wanted in a friend. Back then, I had been working for 2 years after being agoraphobic for 10 years. When I decided to stop being agoraphobic, I made a rule to never turn down a social opportunity, so when Madlen wanted to hang out, I said yes. We were just VERY different people. I always liked her but she had a tendency to be a little bit superficial, and it’s probably been at least two years since I’ve voluntarily worn makeup. I’ve had the same bottle of hairspray for that long, too, and it’s mostly full.

She has a good heart, but after hanging out a couple of times, I think we both mutually decided that we probably wouldn’t  hang out again. Then my mom died, and Madlen started calling me every day. I dreaded those phone calls. I wanted to die, and I very much resented being literally called back into the land of the living. I resented being asked (forced is too harsh of a word) to talk about my mom and how I was feeling, thinking that if I really unleashed what I was really thinking and feeling, she wouldn’t be able to handle it. But once in a while, I’d let her have it, and she would just let me yell at her. Then, whether we were on the phone or talking in person, she’d be silent for a minute or two, and then say, “Do you you feel better?”

I would say, “No,” although, honestly it was a relief to be able to say some of that stuff out loud. Then she’d tell me a joke in Armenian or Farsi, which I wouldn’t understand. Then she’d translate it, and it wouldn’t be funny which would make us both laugh. So, she’s a good kid. Big heart. And that is the ONLY thing we have in common.

I think our approaches to friendship are just different. I approach other people if I have something to offer them, otherwise, I tend to hang back. I will NEVER call a friend if I need emotional support. Madlen is someone who always reaches out when she needs support. I can’t remember ever just hanging out with her when she wasn’t in some sort of a crisis. It’s a puzzle-piece friendship, I need to have something to offer, and she needs to have at least one person in her life who accepts her the way she is (that’s usually the crisis).

I never say “no” to anyone who asks for help, but she asked so much that I had to start. I thought that that would be the end of our friendship (because that’s where my self-esteem is), but she actually took it pretty well. She credits learning to say “no” to other people from hearing it from me, which is so funny to me because I learned it by saying to it to her. I’ve also learned to reach out and ask for help when I need it because she did it so often, that it just rubbed off. So although I probably won’t call or text for help when I need it, now, I’ll answer someone honestly when they ask me how I’m doing. (I have to be REAL low to do that, though.)

One thing that she does is she demands that I say nice things to her. So, in the middle of the conversation, she’ll have an insecure moment and say, “Tell me something good about myself.” This used to infuriate me because it would never have occurred to me to accept a compliment, let alone demand one. But that has rubbed off, too. I still can’t demand a compliment, although I know that if I talk to my best friend Cheri, she’ll at some point just offer one (or two or three) up of her own volition. However, I have started to accept compliments — okay, not like internalizing it and believing it, more like accepting that the person complimenting me is delusional. Hey, it’s a start.

Anyway, it’s an unusual friendship and one that I’m frankly surprised has lasted this long, but I think that the one thing that we have in common is that we both walk through the world actively trying to figure out how to make it better. Both of us are perplexed by maliciousness in others because although we are both incredibly flawed, neither of us has an instinct to be actively cruel. The meanest things I’ve ever done have been out of a sense of self-preservation, warranted or not. And I still cringe at them.

I don’t know how to end this post, so I just will. Have a good day!

Testy Tuesdays #4

I’ve spent all week feeling like everyone is mad at me, and like I don’t belong anywhere, so that’s been fun. I remember in third grade–nope, I have to go back.

When I was in foster care, my foster sister used to make me wear the same clothes to school every day, so I got picked on a lot. I didn’t know why at the time (dirty and smelly, hindsight, right?), I think mostly because it didn’t occur to me to make fun of anyone else.

I remember once, this girl in my class had me put my hands out palms down, and when I did, she slapped the backs of my hands. Then she asked me to put my hands out again, and when I resisted, she promised she wouldn’t slap them again. So I did, and she slapped them again. I’d like to say that that was the end of the “game”, but she promised again and I put them out again, and again, and again.

I think that’s how I walked through the world back then, and I was Charlie Brown and everyone else in the world was Lucy with the football. So, that was first and second grade, kind of blurred together because I was in foster care and seven-eight and didn’t actually understand how grades worked.

So, when I got to live with my mom again, and start third grade at a new-old school (I’d gone there for kindergarten), I decided to look around and figure out why some kids would get picked on and some wouldn’t. I quickly noticed a small flock of popular girls. They were like a super tame version of The Plastics from Mean Girls, only slightly more poised and better dressed than the rest of us schlubs.

I decided that if I was friends with these girls, that would protect me from being made fun of. So, all year, I tried to befriend them. I was a “wannabe” and didn’t know it because I didn’t have any friends to tell me to knock it off. Funnily enough, that year, since I wasn’t wearing the same clothes every day, I probably could have just operated under their radar or become friends with them naturally, but I actually got picked on MORE because I tried to be friends with them than if I’d let them alone. Nobody likes being used, and these girls weren’t dumb.

After reflecting on that for a full summer, I decided that when I went back to school, I wouldn’t try to have friends. I’d just keep my head down and if anyone bothered me, I’d deal with it as best I could, on my own. Fortunately, that was the year I skipped a grade, and I got to start over with all new people, even though it was the same school. (Don’t be impressed. I repeated kindergarten, so I was just in the correct grade from then on, not a year behind.)

What was the point of this? Ah, yes. So, sometimes at work, I am overwhelmed with real affection for my coworkers, and I feel like they like me too, and that’s awesome. But this week, I felt like I did in third grade, forcing friendliness that I didn’t feel because I was depressed. Oprah likes to say to “fake it until you make it” and it’s not terrible advice, except that I work with ALL ARTISTS and artists are more finely attuned to falsity than regular people, so I just felt like an imposter/intruder all week.

Anyway, the only way to combat this is to let go and let people have their reactions to me, which is super difficult when I know the worst reactions that people can have. I legit had someone ask me to kill myself, and mean it, when I was eight years old. This was someone who used to beat me up every day. To go from having some value, even if it was as a punching bag, to having zero value — to see that unfettered hatred in her eyes — that stayed with me, for some reason.

Wow, that got dark. To lighten things up, here’s a gif of one kitten saving another kitten’s life:

Testy Tuesdays #3

I haven’t written in 3 days. I just got caught up on my past two blogs, don’t let the dates fool you. Today is actually Tuesday, though, and I haven’t written anything creative in 3 days. I’m not going to today, either.

I hate depression, I hate it. I hate it!

I have no words. I hate that it takes my words.

Oh, right, I forgot, I was going to change Tuesdays to crafting or something. I also remembered that I’m basically a Christopher Pike expert, too, although not so much a fan since I read one of his latest books, and it was set against the backdrop of the holocaust, as though frivolous teen horror novelists shouldn’t show more goddamn respect for one of humanity’s greatest atrocities. I guess that could fall under the topic of Writing Wednesdays, though…

See you tomorrow.

Testy Tuesdays #2

Take Two:

I deleted my first attempt at this post, and I’m not sorry. I’m sure there were some decent thoughts that I’ll get back to at some point, but I’m not saving what I had written. It was self-indulgent and feel-y and didn’t address why I felt that way, so let’s get into ONE of the several thousand reasons I’m feeling testy on this beautiful Tuesday.

The Aziz Ansari scandal broke a couple of days ago and I haven’t weighed in on social media, aside from liking the posts I agree with and not responding to the posts I don’t agree with. I haven’t expressed an opinion, partly because I’m not sure I have a clear one yet. A lot of people are making some great points and other people are not. Some of the articles about it are good, some are stupid, and most of them barely, if at all, address the real problem.

The real problem is, how do we get women and other marginalized groups to be treated as actual human beings, not sexual fetishes? Here’s my answer: there is a super realistic sex doll coming onto the market. She looks real-ish, and she can even hold a pleasant conversation with her man. I think that people look down on sex dolls, but I am totally behind them. If a man wants a thing to have sex with and say nice things to him, but not really challenge him, which would force him to grow as a person, let him have a sex doll. Get him the most realistic one possible. Build even MORE realistic ones.

I wouldn’t even say that the dolls should be left at home. Let the guys bring their Girlfriendz (TM) to the party, right? (He can even buy two dolls; one to take out and impress his friends, and one at home that actually fits his own aesthetic preferences.) Then we will know who is taken and who is emotionally incapable of having a real relationship. I also think that if a guy has a doll as a girlfriend, he’ll be able to tell the difference between a sex object and an actual human.

For one thing, a sex doll is not self-cleaning, a real woman is. Second, a sex doll’s conversational skills are programmed, whereas real women’s conversations will be organic. So a sex doll will laugh at all of her man’s jokes, and a real woman will only laugh at the ones that are funny. Sex dolls can be programmed with facts, but real women come with ideas, originality, innovation — if you closed your eyes, they almost might pass as men!

And sex dolls aren’t just for men! (Even though, technically, most of them will be.) The coolest thing is that men who aren’t satisfied with the one-sided relationship a sex doll can provide will go out looking for a woman that he can share mutual pleasure with. That’s right, sex will get a lot more consensual and pleasurable for women! I know that we’re first-and-foremost worried about the safety and security of men, but it won’t hurt that the sex dolls will make lives better for women, too, right?

The only real problem that I can see is that the world’s oldest profession of propping up fragile and flaccid egos will be outsourced to these dolls and leave a lot of real women jobless. But this might be a blessing in disguise because these intelligent, funny, resourceful women are actually good for more than just pleasing men. I know! We forget, because society is like a camera, it makes everyone look flat and one-dimensional. So if a woman looks like and is treated as a sex doll, that must be all she is, right?

By objectifying objects instead of people, maybe fewer girls will grow up feeling as though their only purposes and talents are to make sure the men in their lives are okay. Maybe they can look inward and focus on their own pleasure. People often complain that women never invent anything, but with the legendarily insatiable appetites for sex and emotional validation of men taken care of, women will be free to invent more things. Why, with the widespread use of contraceptives over the past few decades, women have already been making such inroads.

I guess it’s time for the disclaimer: of course, I  in no way want to suggest that all or even most men are emotionally incapable of viewing and treating women as actual human beings. I actually think that if most men actually thought that women were only walking pleasure holes, that equality wouldn’t even be a part of the conversation, uncomfortable a conversation as it is. That said, women have been treated as Other for a long time, and it’s difficult to talk about how long overdue equality is without getting a little testy.

I also don’t want to suggest that sex workers are mindless products of the patriarchy. I think they’re mindful products of the patriarchy. They know what the system is and they use it to their advantage. I have a lot of admiration for women who take control of their sexuality and would not ever suggest that a woman who works as a sex worker does not deserve the same respect as a woman who doesn’t. I also believe that most women are often diminished, dismissed, and reduced to their sexuality, in any field they’re in, whether it’s the arts, the sciences, or sex work.

If ever the day comes in which women are treated 100% like people, humanity will flourish further than we could ever have imagined. Look at how far we’ve come in the past 98 years since women got the vote, the first step in equality. Look at how quickly technology has shot forward in the past several decades since more women and people of color have been incorporated into every field. Allowing women into fields other than “mother” or “mistress” has resulted in spectacular advances in science and medicine.

Being treated like something less than human your whole life affects everything, including your perception of your own abilities. Imagine what you’d be capable of if nobody had ever told you that you couldn’t do something based on a physical trait that you have no control over. And yes, adversity encourages development, but we have enough adversity just with the challenges of being human and surviving. We don’t need to create or celebrate bigotry in the name of innovation. We are at our most innovative when we feel encouraged, supported, and heard.

 

Testy Tuesdays #1

Social anxiety can be a bit of a struggle. Here’s how I dealt with it this weekend: I didn’t show up. A baby shower and a birthday party, both of which I have been planning to attend for weeks, but couldn’t. For the baby shower, I just didn’t show up and I feel like a jerk about that. For the birthday party, I lied and said I had the flu, and I feel even worse about that one. I very rarely lie, and even when I do, it’s generally of omission, not a straight-up lie.

I could have said I wasn’t feeling well, which was true, but that’s such a weak excuse. A broken arm, a car wreck, an actual illness are all acceptable reasons to not show up for people. Depression isn’t. Anxiety isn’t. I could have said that I felt like all of my skin had been scraped off with a potato peeler and the idea of being around anyone else in that condition was too much, but I didn’t.

I think in general, we’re all coming around to accepting depression as an actual obstacle that we have to work around, but we’re not there yet. “I’m too scared to go to your party” isn’t going to cut it. “I need three days to sit at home and recover from the severity of my own self-loathing” doesn’t work either.

I should have called into work sick on Saturday but “being a person” isn’t an illness, even if it feels like one, sometimes.

I was agoraphobic from the ages of 17-27, and to be honest, it started before that and it has never gone away, even though people like to declare that a full-time job and having friends means I’m “cured”. When I was 27, I came to a point at which I decided I wouldn’t let anxiety rule my life anymore. I struggle with it every day and I usually win. I hate that it beat me this weekend. I hate that it turned me into a liar and a lesser version of myself. But I don’t know a way around it.

“I can’t be happy that you’re alive because I’m too sad,” is a shitty thing to say to someone on a regular day, let alone a day that is set aside to celebrate that person’s birth. Being happy that someone I love was born, on a day when I’m depressed, is like looking out at the ocean, my gaze following the prismatic rays of sunshine from the heavens, down to where it glimmers and glitters on the floating, frozen bodies lying in the ocean above a sunken Titanic.

On a good day, I can keep my eyes on the Heavens. On an okay day, I can see the light and the death and find a balance there. On a bad day, all I can see is the death and the mourning and the loss of our greatest treasures. All I can see is the infuriating fragility of life and hope. I wonder what the point of celebrating our small victories is when our defeats are so much larger and more devastating and relentless.

It’s like the first flower that grows after an atomic bomb explodes. Most people see the flower as a symbol of regeneration, the circle of life, life finds a way and other bland cliches, unhelpful philosophies, and conventional wisdoms. I look at the flower and I think about all of the people who died immediately and the poor souls who died slower and more painfully. I think about how irreplaceable each and every one of those people were, and I look at the flower and I think, it’s not enough. Who could ever think that could be enough?

The only thing I can really do is hold on to this experience and use it to allow me to be kind to other people. Sometimes, when I go for long stretches in which I feel strong and smart and capable, I lose my empathy. I get very judgemental. Letting down the people that I care about is always humbling but it makes me kinder. I remember that people don’t fail me because they want to. It’s because they’re human and people aren’t perfect.

Blogging While Humaning

I’d love to have prepared something special for my first real blog post. I did a quick Google search and there were a lot of “not to-do” articles that I didn’t click on, but I did see one piece of advice that said, “share your expertise”. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m not an expert on anything but I am proficient in a lot of things:

  • sadness
  • anxiety
  • face blindness
  • Dan Fogelberg
  • writing
  • drawing
  • stand-up comedy

That’s seven things! So I’m going to dedicate one day of the week to each of these things and give the best tips I have for all of these subjects. If I become proficient at anything else,  I may have to change the format at some point, but we’ll start with these. Because this is my first official blog, I’m going to do the first week in one post and give a tip for each subject, so that you can judge from one post if I have any credibility on these subjects.

Minstrel Monday
Dan Fogelberg Fact: Dan Fogelberg had a boat named the Minstrel, therefore, Mondays have been nicknamed Minstrel Mondays!

Testy Tuesday
Okay, I couldn’t think of a word for anxiety that started with a “t” so we’re going with Testy Tuesdays. A tip for dealing with anxiety: Anxiety is about feeling out of control, so the best way to combat that is to pull your focus into what you can control, even if it’s something small. Write a one-page story (it doesn’t have to be good), draw a thing (it doesn’t have to be good), pick up your socks off the floor (leave the empty water bottles). If you’re focused on what you CAN do, you’re not focused on what you CAN’T control.

Writing Wednesday
This one was easy to name. This is something I did for my writing, recently:  I joined a Facebook writing group. It’s going well so far. Yes, there is the temptation to just play on the page instead of write. However, being able to see and talk to people for whom writing is also super important is very helpful.

Drawing Thursday
Yeah, I totally gave up on the alliteration for this one. A tip for drawing: start out crappy at it and get better by doing it crappily a lot. It’ll get gradually less crappy and before you know it, it’s actually kind of good.

Face-Blindness Friday
Again easy to name! Face blindness is called “prosopagnosia” and it is defined as, “Prosopagnosia is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces…Depending upon the degree of impairment, some people with prosopagnosia may only have difficulty recognizing a familiar face; others will be unable to discriminate between unknown faces, while still others may not even be able to distinguish a face as being different from an object.”* Tip for Dealing with a Face Blind Person: if you’ve met someone a few times and they still don’t recognize you, it may not be a lack of respect, it could be a neurological condition, so don’t get all butt hurt, just introduce yourself again.

Sadness Saturday
Ooh, my favorite! Honestly, I could make this every day, but what a bummer of a blog that would be. A tip for dealing with sadness: Google “I am sad” and see what pops up. Generally, it’s kittens. I like to Google my sadness away because it reminds me that it’s part of being human. Everyone deals with sadness, I am not a freak for feeling sad sometimes.

Stand-Up Sunday
The perfect follow-up to Sadness Saturday. I work at a comedy club, so I’ll probably spend Sundays reflecting on something I learned or saw that week, or a joke I heard, or something that pissed me off. This week, the Wednesday audition was really nice. We had like, four first timers (comedians new to the club) but in general, it was a low turnout, and mostly regulars. But before the audition, I asked David Dorward if he’d do one of my favorite bits. I requested one of my favorite Kimberly Clark bits from her, too, and then spent more time chatting with the few people who showed up than I usually do.

Usually, at auditions, the regulars get up and use it as an open mic with mixed results. But on Wednesday, David was one of our first regulars up, and he brought it. Kimberly did too, and so did all of our regulars. I think there were two things that happened yesterday: one, I showed an interest in the comics, rather than just checking them in, which made them feel special before they even got on stage. And second, even the comedians I didn’t chat with were jazzed and inspired by David and Kimberly and they all did their best, too.

David and Kimberly are two of my favorite comedians who drop by auditions regularly, and they always do well, but I think that going in knowing that they were not just watched but seen and heard, really helped. It COULD have backfired, and I won’t be doing that a lot, but my requests were spontaneous and genuine, and they responded to that. I think we all got to remind each other that we all love stand-up, which oddly enough, sometimes gets lost in the grinds and gears of comedy as a business.

* https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Prosopagnosia-Information-Page